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Images: Outlook 2007 beta 2

Outlook 2007 beta 2: a more convenient tool for communications and time management than its 2003 ancestor?
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More than skin deep

Outlook 2007 beta 2 may be a more convenient tool for communications and time management than its 2003 ancestor. Microsoft is aiming for this new e-mail app to resolve some longstanding bugaboos. These vary from small changes, such as the ability to color-code messages, to interface renovations that display to-do lists and calendar items in one place.

Overall, the main interface of Outlook 2007 beta 2 looks largely the same as version 2003's, without a top-heavy Ribbon of features being applied to the rest of the Office 2007 system. The most noticeable change is the To-Do bar along the right edge of the screen, which users can hide or expand for a small summary of latest appointments and chores.

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At a glance

The To-Do Bar along the right edge of Outlook's interface displays a quick view of calendar and tasks at hand.

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Finding e-mails

Lost in subfolders? A new search box above a list of messages lets users refine queries by sender, subject and more.

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Color

In addition to flagging messages for follow-up, you can also color-code incoming e-mail with one click.

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Still clicking through subfolders

Mail Folders are organized the same way as they were in Outlook 2003--promoting nesting and scrolling.

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E-mail laced with a Ribbon

The e-mail composition window displays the tabbed Ribbon similar to those across the rest of the Office 2007 system. Users can manage messages, format text, and attach and insert files, tables, images and equations without depending on drop-down menus. The new version highlights functions buried in version 2003, such as delaying message delivery.

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Junk for the trunk

Security protection lets you instantly mark a message as junk mail and block or add a sender to the Safe List. The Junk E-mail section on the Message tab links to more options, such as disabling links within potential phishing messages.

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Open your calendar

Outlook 2007 beta 2 allows you to send your entire Calendar to other people, with a choice of permission levels to control the details they see.

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Warm up your schedule

Color-coding of appointments allows you to view Calendar items as a heat map.

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Keeping tasks on track

For the first time, tasks appear within Outlook's Calendar so that you can view appointments and pressing assignments in one place. You can set alerts for tasks, and drag and drop them to the Calendar for quick scheduling.

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Make a date

Just as you can view tasks within the Calendar, Outlook 2007 lets you drop down a minicalendar within a list of tasks.

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Your card?

Using the new Ribbon layout, Outlook 2007 beta 2 presents more information at a glance to manage your contacts without relying on the old-style tabs or drop-down menus.

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Automate away messages

Going on a trip? The new Out of Office Assistant lets you send different away messages for people within and outside of your company.

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Up-to-date with news

You can subscribe to RSS feeds and view them below your Outlook 2007 beta 2 Inbox, without need for a third-party newsreader such as Newsgator. However, CNET's testing, only Microsoft properties were available for instant subscription.

Read CNET Reviews' First Take and slide shows of the beta 2 versions of Microsoft Word 2007, Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007.

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